The Pretentious Corner: On How The Internet is Actually Making Me Listen to Less and Less Music

Inspirational Lubricant Du Jour: Long Trail Pollenator, English Pale Ale that tastes like a bad knock-off of Sam Summer

Men (And apparently, now, women. What up, Jean Louise?),

I’ve got a theory.

“It could be bunnies.”

It’s not bunnies. That joke was in honor of my erstwhile neighboring egg joining the BroCast staff. My former womb-mate (!) is the only one who will get it.

“Which way to the pun show?”

No, the theory I’m going to lay out today is to do with the effect that the internet has had on how we listen to music. More specifically, I suppose, it’s to do with the effect the internet has had on my relationship with music. It’s entirely possible that I’m the only one to have experienced the phenomenon I’m going to describe, but I sort of doubt it. Because everyone is exactly like me and if you’re not then I’m sad for you.

The popular opinion, as I understand it, is that the interwebs have vastly increased the availability of music of all kinds and that, therefore, much better music is now much more readily available. Instead of being forced to play shows, tour like mad and pray that the right person (usually a label exec) hears them, aspiring musicians can now simply upload their tracks to the internet, thereby reaching many more pairs of ears much more quickly. It is therefore much easier to be “discovered”, since the right person needs only stumble upon your MySpace page (is this still a thing?), rather than hear you play in a club.

Here’s the problem with that idea: The old system, however cutthroat and seemingly unfair, had some natural selection built into it. In order to “make it”, you had to pass through several levels of discernment, each of which required someone with reasonably trained earholes – a club owner, another musician, a record exec – to decide that your shit was good enough for them to get behind.

By contrast, in the land of the series of tubes (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R8XSo0etBC4), the only person who has to decide that your music is any good – is you. And in case you’ve never met an aspiring musician, every one of them thinks his music is good enough to make him famous.

Even natural selection deserves a mulligan every now and then.

Searching for new music on the internet is kind of like going to a bad diner*. Most diners have sprawling, multi-page menus encouraging one to order everything from the filet mignon to the grilled cheese to the moussaka. There’s no discernment. Everything on the menu is the best of its kind. That, my friends, is a dangerous myth (and not just for your gastrointestinal system). If there’s one thing Jean Louise will tell you, it’s that when everything is the best, everything is also usually the worst. Variety is indirectly proportional to quality. It’s why the the best restaurants make what they make and fuck you if you want something else. When you can have literally anything you want (as is generally the case with music on the internet), you are a thousand times more likely to settle upon something that is crappy, like the “Meatloaf Surprise”.

It works on so many levels.

Now, I’m not really a fan of the “It’s like, you know, there’s just so MUCH available out there now – how am I supposed to CHOOSE?” line of thought. I think that bespeaks laziness and acts as a convenient excuse. If you really do want to find good music that you’ll love, it’s out there and ready to be consumed. What the internet does mean, however, is that you have to sift through SO MUCH MORE terrible shit before finding the stuff you’re actually going to like. It is this exponential increase in the availability and popularity of terrible crap that goads me. As product of my generation, I simply don’t hold to it.

This, I think, explains why I’ve sought out and fallen in love with less and less new music since I graduated from college. I simply can’t be asked to wade through the endless links, the creepy “Internet-tries-to-guess-your-taste” apps and the nauseating “You HAVE to check this out, it’ll blow your mind” posts on social media.

My take, like most of my takes, is rooted in aesthetic experience. In High School, going to buy CDs was a special occasion for me, a treat almost. (I mean, how else could Sam Goody have stayed in business so long?) In college, music was an integral part of my dorm life: iTunes was new-ish then and the advent of buying and sharing music was a bonding experience on college intranets everywhere. By contrast, in my “adult” life, CD stores have become hilariously obsolete and my social engagements tend to be organized around sports or alcohol, rather than music. The aesthetic and social aspects that formerly came with discovering new music have been vastly reduced. It’s just not that fun to fall in love with a band by yourself, in front of your computer, in your underwear.

The internet has aneasthetized listening to new music for me and, as a result, I no longer seek it out.

So how do I get my hands on new music these days? Why, like every successful American Corporate Enterprise: I outsource the hard labor. I have two or three trusted people from whom I receive all of my musical enlightenment. They know my tastes and I trust theirs. In other words, I have forcibly injected the crucial step of discernment back into the process. I may only have “discovered” two or three news bands that I really love, but I really love them – and I didn’t have to consult a 50-page menu of mediocre slop first.

The internet is the enemy of discernment. When you have no discernment, you get this:

The long-awaited sequel to “The Bodyguard” left something to be desired.

Do you really need any more evidence than that?

Bromantically Yours,

P.D. Montgomery

*This comparison borrowed in part from Joe House, frequent guest on Bill Simmons’ podcast. Full disclosure, clowns.

About P.D. Montgomery

P.D. Montgomery writes a weekly column for BroCast News on all things pretentious. His interests include tweed, wool ties and Basil Hayden's - which is better than whatever bourbon you like.
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